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The Difference Between Health, Skill and Physical Fitness


The Difference Between Health, Skill and Physiological Fitness

Fitness, in the simplest of definitions, is a multi-dimensional concept that means performing activities with adequate vigor and energy. This term may conjure up various visions of lean, muscular bodies doing exercise classes, biking, running, lifting, etc. This type of visual interpretation may have deleterious consequences on the general public’s idea that being thin and beautiful is the only way to be fit and healthy.

Every human being must physically perform every day. This performance is what the health and fitness industry call Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Real life IS one big performance! Everyone needs to be physically prepared to handle the rigors of everyday life.

Every day we lift, push, pull, bend, twist, squat up and down, step, lunge, and carry. These movements are fundamental human movements that everyone performs on a daily basis – this includes athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and the average, everyday person. Increasing our physical abilities comes from physically challenging our bodies to adapt to physical stress encountered daily.

The ACSM has divided physical fitness into various categories:

Health-Related Fitness (HRF)

HRF is related to performing ADL with vigor and associated with a low risk of premature development of hypokinetic disease (disease from physical inactivity).

Flexibility: Interestingly this aspect of musculoskeletal fitness is seldom thought of as a category of strength. Nevertheless, flexibility is paramount for efficient and effective quality movement Refers to the range of motion about a joint.

Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is normally associated with the maximum amount of weight one can move in a specific resistance training exercise as well as producing maximum force. This definition is very vague since most novice/beginning trainees do not benefit from initial maximum testing to determine strength levels. Maximum strength testing is only beneficial after a substantial period of training to develop a base level of conditioning. This base level of conditioning is termed foundational strength and helps to decrease training injuries associated with untrained Individuals.

Muscular Endurance: This refers to the ability of a muscle to sustain a sub-max force output for a period of time. The majority of fitness strength programs focuses on this type of strength and seldom reaches recruitment of the high-threshold motor units required to produce high-force outputs

Cardiovascular Fitness: This refers to the capacity of our cardio-respiratory/cardiovascular system (VO2MAX). This component has long been considered the highest priority in a fitness program. The strength of our CV system to deliver oxygen and nutrients to every cell is vital for survival.

Body Composition: The ratio of fat-free mass to fat-mass. Research clearly indicates higher levels of fat-mass increase our risk of numerous metabolic diseases and decreased life span. Body Composition is fundamental to good health and is one benefit of a properly designed training program.

Skill-Related Fitness (SRF)

Related to Sport Performance

Agility: The ability to change direction under control. Everyone utilizes a degree of agility in ADL. Possessing the ability to momentarily accelerate/decelerate in any direction requires cognitive as well as physical ability. This type of specialized training can be utilized accordingly after foundational training.

Balance: Balance training (training movement patterns on unstable surfaces) has been utilized to train the core musculature as well as the smaller stabilizer muscles surrounding each joint throughout the kinetic chain. Research indicates that this type of training does not transfer well to real-life movement due to light loads, long tension times, and low velocities. Force production is severely decreased with motor patterns altered, due to the slow movement velocities with unstable training protocols.

Most individuals have a unilateral or bilateral deficit (one side stronger than the other). Decreasing this deficit can be part of the overall program design if the deficit is not too severe. This can also be assessed during the initial stages of training when the trainer is teaching clients the basic movement patterns of exercises. Identifying faulty movement patterns may indicate previous injuries sustained in the past or identifying motor learning/ motor control/motor ability difficulties (some clients have problems learning new movements and require alternative methods for learning movements). If any client has a substantial deficit or motor ability problems, a trainer must refer this client to a trained specialist for further evaluation.

Coordination: This refers to performing all movement in a biomechanically efficient manner that relies on the coordination of the neuromuscular system. Efficient and effective movement requires proper sequencing of segments and must be coordinated in the correct sequence (intra and intermuscular coordination) i.e. proper motor learning efficiency.

Speed: Related to actual speed work (sprinting exercises as part of a well-designed cardiovascular program) or speed-strength training. Life does not always move at a slow pace, therefore, strength training (depending on the type of strength one is training) should be specific not only to actual movement patterns but to the speed of movement as well. This is considered a more advanced training method and is a valuable variable to a trainee after building a foundation of absolute strength to enhance movement efficiency (NMF), as well as adding variety to training.

Power: This refers to the rate of performing work. The term “power” has normally been related to athletic performance especially in explosive types of movements; nevertheless, novice clients need to develop a level of power indicative of their fitness status and participate in varied activities. Power training should only be performed after establishing an adequate base of strength not only in musculature but more specifically in the connective tissue network (i.e. ligaments, tendons, and bones) and motor learning development. Put simply, the body must have the proper foundation before attempting this component of training.

Reation Time: The ability to improve ones’ reaction time, especially when involved in performing an athletic activity is very important. Learning a particular movement initially involves slow, controlled movement to facilitate neuromuscular efficiency. Once the technique is learned and control is established (proper motor patterning), increasing the speed of movement increases RFD (rate of force development). This is the amount of force required to overcome any external resistance, be it weight training, plyometrics, or agility training (change of direction), etc. This can also be related to improved conduction rates of related motor units as well (intramuscular coordination), which increase intermuscular coordination.

Physiological Fitness (PF)

Includes non-performance components relating to biological systems influenced by habitual activity.

Metabolic Activity: Status of all metabolic systems and variables that may predict risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Morphologic Fitness: Status of body composition factors (body circumference, body fat content, regional fat distribution).

Bone Integrity: Status of bone mineral density.

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Thanks for reading!

The NESTA/Spencer Institute Team

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